Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Westminster responds on the Vaughan affair

Bishop George Stack has responded, on behalf of Archbishop Nichols, to my letter expressing concern over the way the Diocese is riding roughshod over the views of parents and governors of the Cardinal Vaughan School in its appearance of attempting to drag the school into the realms of the normal, low achievement level of so many Catholic schools in this country.

Bishop Stack
+ Stack tells me that the Archbishop has received "over 90 letters in the last two months on the subject". Why so few? I would have thought that, with 600 plus attending the candlelit vigil, more would have written; perhaps the two months element is the misleading one. This affair has been rumbling along for well over a year as far as I am aware. I am certain that the tally of letters must stand at more than 90.

The letter is a round robin, no attempt has been made to answer my specific points. It is the sort of letter you might receive if you complained to a biscuit manufacturer about a packet of biscuits that was mouldy. It is full of bland generalisations and sweeping statements: "The governing body of Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School is fully committed to the flourishing of the school. This includes maintaining its fine traditions of academic rigour and musical excellence. The work and achievements of the school are expressions of Catholic faith and part of the life and mission of the Church in Westminster."
Fine, but there is nothing about admissions policy there and this is the key to the dispute. The Bishop also enclosed a paper based on a talk given by Bishop Alan Hopes in April 2009 and a couple of sheets of "Frequently asked questions"
If I was Head of Customer Services of Westminster RC Church Ltd., I would wish to speak to Bishop Stack about his paper based approach to answering consumer complaints.  Bishop Hopes paper was aimed, primarily at the teaching staff of the school but there is one word missing from all but one of its 13 pages. The word? "Parent". Perhaps that is an indicator of where things have gone awry. No organisation can fail to ignore its main customer. Teachers are, of course, vital, but there is also a crying need for parental inter-action.
Managing a major school today is a very different proposition from that of 30 years ago. It requires a very wide range of both soft and hard skills and above all else, it requires a holistic approach involving parents, governors, teachers, Church and, especially, pupils.

I did not get the impression that Bishop Stack would comprehend this sort of approach to education, even his signature was rubber stamped.


  1. Not only was the word "parents" missing from Bishop Hopes's 2009 talk to the staff at the Vaughan, it was also absent from Archbishop Nichols's statement issued in advance of the Candlelit Vigil on February 2nd, as well as from Bishop Stack's round robin letter dated February 7th.

    If the bishops' intention was to persuade the "primary and principal educators of their children" of their benevolent intentions, a little more acknowledgement of parents' primary role might have been in order.

    The Vaughan Parents' Action Group's responses to Archbishop Nichols's statement, Bishop Stack's letter and the FAQ document may be found here:

    at February 14th and 16th.

  2. I remember an out-of-hours event at the Cathedral where the then Mgr Stack opined that the Anglicans had all the best ideas. Of course, it was tongue-in-cheek (possibly).
    He didn't get where he is today by being rigidly Catholic.